Mark Twain and Dennis Leary, Together for One Night Only

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts.  Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be aquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.” – Mark Twain

A thousand years ago (okay, more like twelve) if you had asked me my thoughts on traveling, I would have said something along the lines of, “Yeah, of course I want to travel!  I want to go to Italy and England and Paris.  Maybe Russia in the summer… because I took two years of Russian in high school so, you know, I’m pretty fluent.  And I’d like to go on a cruise, maybe to the Bahamas.  And probably the Grand Canyon and New York.  That’s good, I think.”
Twelve years later, I’ve been to so many places, that I needed to have pages added to my first passport.  Then I needed to get that passport renewed before it expired because they wouldn’t add any more pages.  I have been to (in as particular order as I can, just to help me remember): the Dominican Republic, Canada, Mexico, Kuwait, Lebanon, Jordan, the UAE (Dubai and Abu Dhabi), Oman, Egypt, Qatar, England, France, China, Germany, Spain, Indonesia (Bali), Guatemala, El Salvador, and Sri Lanka.   You might be thinking, “Wow, she’s a well-traveled lady.”  Or you could be thinking, “Stop showing off.”  And it does seem like a lot of countries… until you consider that there are somewhere in the neighborhood of 189-196 countries in the world, depending on who you ask.  And I’ve been to nineteen.  Twenty if we count ‘Merica (let’s count it- I like round numbers).

**Edited to add Turkey and Singapore- the Rugby Star reminded me!  So I’m up to twenty-two… still a nice, round number.**

Being able to travel has been an amazing experience in my life.  I have stepped (ever so slightly) outside of my comfort zone and seen parts of the world that I couldn’t locate on a map I had never even considered visiting.  Here’s an embarrassing tidbit- when I went to Jordan on a school trip back in 2006(ish), I didn’t know what Petra was.  I wasn’t 100% sure what the big deal about the Dead Sea was.  I was like Sherlock, not knowing that the earth travels around the sun.  

Better than the sights I’ve seen, however, is the way my life has changed because of my travels.   I wasn’t a stereotypical Southern before I left.  I won’t go too far into my political views or religious beliefs, but suffice it to say, I’ve always been rather open-minded and a bit too liberal for certain family members.  I don’t think any of that would have changed if I had never left.  But because I got to experiencelife outside of Georgia, I think I am even more tolerant, more understanding that I might have been otherwise.  

This makes me mad.   It makes me mad because I saw it posted on Facebook and some of the comments were so ignorant that I wanted to throw my computer at the wall while roaring a Hulk-like roar, albeit girlier.  Someone commented that women wearing the face veil frightened children.  Frightened them?  It’s not frightening.  Not if you don’t teach your children to be afraid.  It is religious freedom at its’ most obvious.  My girls aren’t afraid.  The Sprout stares at anyone who talks to her and then waves happily, covered or not.  The Ladybug is in a bit of a shy stage so she typically hides from strangers, but she hides equally from everyone.  I’ve mentioned that the women who completely cover, even their eyes, can be disconcerting, but it’s not scary.  Don’t teach your children to be afraid (or hate) and they won’t.  Simple as that.

But, the proposition, which may or may not be law by now, actually makes me really angry for another reason.   Not because of the people who are afraid or ignorant intolerant, but because of the extremists who have used the veil as a means to wreak havoc, cause panic, chaos, death and destruction.  I am angry at those who have taken a symbol of the Muslim world and turned it into something to be afraid of.  I am angry that Muslim women are being targeted and discriminated against because of the extremists.  

Many Muslim women choose to cover.   It is part of who they are, part of what they identify with as a woman, as a Muslim.  Imagine being told you must shave your head because people with hair have been causing chaos in the world.  Or now you have to stop wearing pants because people with pants are the ones who make the bombs.  

Travel.  Leave your little corner of the earth and see that Muslim women are not scary, covered or otherwise.  See that poverty exists in ways you can’t imagine and that some of those people who are the poorest are the happiest.  Experience life outside of your spot, your comfort zone.  Step back from stereotypes, learn from one another, embrace life and all those in it.  There’s a lot out there to learn, folks.  And you won’t learn it on a bus tour of Italy or on a cruise ship to the Bahamas.  

Feel free to debate with me, if you’d like but don’t be hateful.  I understand the safety issues behind having women uncover their faces, I do.  I’m not raging against the machine of government, more against the people who have caused this to be an issue.  


Day 2: I needed warm because I have a sore throat.  Yep, that’s steam rising off my apple-cinnamon oatmeal.  Mmmm!


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